FTM’s 20th Anniversary: 20 For the 20th – Reel Careers Profile Series
“FTM was the influence helping to get my foot in the door through its programs and workshops.”
JJ (Jenna) Neepin is a Cree Writer/Director/Producer based in Winnipeg. JJ and her sister/partner/Producer Justina Neepin run their production company JJNEEPINFILMS Inc.
JJ has written and directed several short films, several episodes of documentary television and has had films screened at film festivals all over the world. Screenings include Maoriland Film Festival in New Zealand, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in the U.S. and ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto. She is also an alumnus of Women in the Director’s Chair and the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s Director Program for Women. JJ is an Associate Producer on the CBC’s new series The Trickster.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I started working in the industry in 2009 in production assistant positions and then saw my first big show, APTN’s Cashing In S2 in the locations department. It was actually through FTM’s Aboriginal Internship Program that got me the opportunity. Through a partnership with IATSE 669 and FTM I did their Camera Trainee program and returned for Cashing In S3 in the Camera department. I made several connections that I still know to this day.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
The bulk of my experience has been from documentary film and television. Currently I am an Associate Producer on CBC’s The Trickster and have been learning about what it takes to put on a larger budget TV show. I’m excited to expand further in this world and for audiences to see this show. I’ve always loved the fast pace of a TV series set compared to a feature; the pressure adds a sense of hype that I really enjoy.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
I’ve noticed that there is finally starting to be more room made for filmmakers like me and though the process is ongoing and a slow pace, it’s happening and I’m grateful for the Indigenous, POC and women before me who made sure there is space for me. I’m also constantly reminded to keep taking up space, show up and speak up.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
I would say, keep doing what you’re doing – have patience with the process and yourself, the pain will be worth it.
How did taking FTM training affect your career?
FTM was the influence helping to get my foot in the door through its programs and workshops. FTM put me in contact with many MB film connections and opportunities.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Everyday is often different; you travel, and meet so many people. It can change your life for better. However like all good things it comes with hard work and sacrifice and you’ll never know what the sacrifices are until you’re in it. It’s not a straight route either, be flexible, open to learning and growth, you’ll know quickly if this industry is for you.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been interested in.
I’m really eclectic about my film and TV choices. I love series about royal institutions like The Crown and then indulge in murderous horrors of Hannibal or Mind Hunter. I am also an avid fan of animation, not just Disney/Pixar but also Japanese anime. Some of my favourite films are ones I can enjoy watching over and over again like Jaws, The Shinning, The Great Escape, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Star Wars and Spaceballs! I also regularly watch Documentaries, as a kid I often watched Discovery Channel more than the cartoons. I like watching Vox, New York Times and Vice short docs on YouTube.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
I’ve always been a very introverted person; most colleagues will recall my quiet and sometimes shy demeanour. I want all my former and current mentors including close colleagues to know I’m eternally grateful for their teachings, collaborations and patience with me. I rarely get to say Thank you properly. I remember all of you who taught me tips and tricks along the way and I’m better because of your help.
Is there a film technician or filmmaker that you would really like to work with and why?
I want to make my first feature in Winnipeg and it’s always been my goal to do so. I think it would be super fun to bring on so many colleagues I know to work on the feature. I’m still in early development stages, but I’m always hopeful.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
No idea! I just want to keep working in this industry. I will say I hope to have several more Director credits under my belt and doing more Producing and help make my colleagues’ projects. Keep hustling.